It's not rocket science!
I’ve just been away on a two berth boat travelling the canals of the south of France. As part of the on-board facilities there is a gas stove a kettle and a mesh filter to help make coffee. I took three of our coffees with me, Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Cuban, Altura Lavado and a Costa Rica community lot from the Tazazzu region.
In a previous blog I was bemoaning the quality of French Café coffee particularly in the north of France. Well let me tell you it’s a mixed bag in the south as well. Ironically the best coffee I had was an Ethiopian Sidamo made using a pod (not capsule). Interesting that with the pod, the dosing of the coffee is pre-determined, as is the grind. A lot of the de-skilling apparently apparently required to make a decent cup of coffee.
Maybe my demands are a little outside the window of the mainstream French market. I like a well made café allongé (equivalent to an Americano); black and without sugar. I’m conscious that the French like an espresso and the sugar bowl is never too far away! So maybe I’m a little to blame.
However I’m getting a little distracted as the point I’m trying to make in this blog is that making a great cup of coffee isn’t rocket science even with the humblest of facilities.
As with all food and drink great ingredients are fundamental to excellence. In the case of coffee, it’s about the coffee. With 3 of the best coffees in the world to hand that certainly wasn’t going to be a problem in my case. I hope it goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway, the coffee needs to be as fresh as possible. Great stale coffee doesn’t work.
You can spend hours worrying about the weight of ground coffee needed for the mug in front of you, I know many a Barista who has sleepless night worrying about the ratio. When you’re on a boat, life is too short. My rule of thumb is one and a half heaped desert spoons of ground coffee for a medium sized mug. What I’m looking for is a reasonable depth of ground coffee in the mesh filter so that the water has time to get the flavour into your mug. I tend to err on greater depth of coffee if I’m not sure.
Next water, like the coffee it needs to be fresh. Bring your kettle to the boil (mine had a whistle to let me know, I’m a sucker for gimmick!) and then let it cool slightly. Next pour a small quantity of water over the coffee so that it is just covered and wait while it drains into your mug. If you’re making a couple of mugs try to share the filter between the mugs. It’s a bit messy but at least that initial extraction is shared.
Now slowly pour on the water ensuring that you are wetting all the grounds. Fresh coffee will “bloom”, that is a light foam will appear on the surface of the coffee grounds. Lift the filter so that you can see when your mug is full, if you take milk, leave sufficient room.
That’s it your coffee is now ready to drink. It should be hot without being impossible to drink, smooth and full flavoured. Perfect if you are on a boat to have with a fresh croissant covered in confiture d’abricot (apricot jam), a personal weakness!
To sum up, you need great fresh coffee, plenty of it, good water and a gentle pour. That, ladies and gentlemen will make you a coffee to die for. And no you don’t have to be on a boat in France with a beautiful woman (or of course a good looking man), admittedly though that does help!
The three coffees I took with me are available to purchase from the website below.